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Drones In Hollywood Are Cool, If Humans Will Just Follow The Rules

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(Photo by risteski goce via Shutterstock)
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It's been a weird battle with drones, pitting their ability to capture stunning footage against the fact that some irresponsible drone users are causing serious problems when it comes to fighting wildfires and interfering with aircraft. In Hollywood, the same problems exist. The FAA approved drone use on film sets in the U.S. in 2014. The Motion Picture Association of America had stated that drone use would be safer than trying to shoot with helicopters. One such helicopter crashed in 2013 while filming a Discovery TV reality show, killing three people.

Matt Ragan, who founded Birds Eye of a Big Sky, a company that provides drones for use in film, boasted to Variety about a drone's ability to create "seamless transition." A drone can follow an object, for instance, while dipping and rising in the air.

There are rules, of course, set in place by the FAA that one must follow when operating a drone. Drones can only get as high as 400 feet and must be visible by the naked eye at all times. Anyone who is not integral to the production must also remain 200 feet away from the drone at all times.

But while big studios demand drone pilots get certified from the FAA and follow the rules, location manager Mike Fantasia told Variety that not all filmmakers take the necessary precautions.

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"They fly a drone around, take some footage and don't get permits," he said.

And other filmmakers might not really understand how a drone actually works. Because cameras are heavy, a drone's battery can really only keep it in the air for 10 to 15 minutes. Ragan said many directors ask drone operators to do things with drones that the devices just aren't capable of doing.

Eric Bergez, vice president of drone manufacturer Intuitive Aerial, offers a drone made to carry 20 pounds of camera equipment, even if it should lose power in two motors. But, he said, "We can't out-engineer stupid. If a pilot puts on an old battery, it's going to fall out of the sky. Battery maintenance is an industrywide issue." Issues get worse, of course, if the drone used isn't really meant for those kind of challenges.

But when they work, they really work.

Check out this scene from Skyfall, where drones were used to track a chase sequence in Istanbul. This was shot before the FAA decision but, obviously, not in the U.S.

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Here's the trailer for Life After Gravity. CNET reports that this dystopian sci-fi series is shot by drone maker 3D Robotics (3DR) to showcase their possibilities. If you like what you see, you can find a few episodes on their YouTube page here.

Of course, filmmakers aren't the only ones using drones. TheWrap reports that a drone camera in Italy managed to catch a sneak peek at the Themyscira filmset of Wonder Woman. Themyscira is the hidden island where Wonder Woman was born. There, she is known as Princess Diana of Themyscira.